The updates

During the first half of 2016 Google announced two fundamental changes to its Adwords real estate.

It launched ‘Expanded text ads’, with both ad headline and description lines increasing in length and it removed the familiar ‘sidebar’ paid search ads (on the right of the results page), introducing an additional spot for paid search listings above the organic results.

rhs ppc ads?

These updates have undoubtedly had a profound effect on both the performance and costs of the ads themselves and on organic search rankings as they get pushed down the results pages. With a greater proportion of traffic going through PPC, brands will of course need additional budget to invest here.

An increase in competition for those high-traffic top ad positions was inevitable and we have already seen an increase in cost per click (CPC). Indeed, our research shows that for some highly competitive search queries, we’ve seen the average CPC increase by up to 17%.

So what should brands be doing to maximise their ROI from Google’s updated ad real estate?

Here are our six top tips:

1. Integrate PPC and SEO now

In terms of 2016 search programmes, there is a real risk that it will cost brands more to get the same from search.

So, if it is not happening already, brands must now align their targets and activity across paid and natural search and take an integrated approach to manage ROI and help make gains in efficiency and reach.

Brands and advertisers must move away from viewing PPC and SEO in isolation and focus instead on one objective for a ‘Total Search’ approach.

Paid search and natural search should work together to increase search conversions as a whole across a wide portfolio of shared keywords. Competing for the same keywords across both search channels only serves to drive up costs for brands.

2. Test and learn with new ad copy 

An immediate first step that all advertisers should take is to generate ad copy variants taking advantage of the new Expanded text ad limits.

From here it is vital to be testing and establishing new best practice approaches. But don’t see this as a chore – task your copywriters with being as creative as possible!

Brands and advertisers that are doing this well are using the larger copy limit to pack in more detail about offers, promotions and product USPs.

expanded text ads

3. Keep an even closer eye on your performance

The most important thing to do is to monitor your account performance very closely for significant changes to key account metrics.

Monitor Adwords alerts and if you have the technology, create your own custom alerts to notify of any pivotal positional changes that may require urgent attention.

Unsure what you need to bid in order to stay visible? Use top of page bid estimates for clarity.

4. Plan for potential bumps in the road

Formulate some potential scenarios and consider the best way to respond to them so you can prepare for all eventualities.

When competition pushes up CPCs there can be a tendency to doubledown on more efficient brand terms to mitigate against losses to ROI. Don’t be fooled by this false economy – plan ahead to ensure you have a better thought through contingency.

Sometimes shifting budget from brand across to strategically important generics is a better long term approach to continue to grow new customers.

5. Embrace Retargeting Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs)

With the same (or in some cases an increased) volume of advertisers competing for a smaller number of ad placements, there is little doubt that the role of RLSAs will become ever more important.

A more sophisticated approach to strategic retargeting can soften the blow of potential CPC increases and keep ROI stable.

Advertisers should consider using RLSAs to prevent ads from showing to returning visitors on core brands terms, and use a combination of search path analysis and RLSAs to better understand, and maximise, the value of non-brand keyword visibility to returning customers. 

6. Make the most of ad extensions

Positions one to three have always had the advantage of being capable of displaying the widest variety of ad extensions – links to specific pages on your site.

With these positions now being your paramount target for Adwords visibility, making the most of ad extensions becomes even more important to your click-through rate. The best advice on extensions is the more the merrier – give Google more of a reason to favour your ads over less dynamic competitors.

For more on the six topics discussed above and many more best practice tips, subscribers can download the Econsultancy Paid Search Best Practice Guide.